Jacob Romero Gibson as Usopp in Netflix's live action One Piece

No, Really, Eiichiro Oda Was Deeply Involved in the Live-Action ‘One Piece’

For Luffy’s birthday (May 5), One Piece mangaka Eiichiro Oda published a note via Twitter about the status of Netflix’s much (anxiously) anticipated live-action adaptation of his beloved series. To One Piece fans, Oda is a singular figure. To say he’s a “god-figure” would be inaccurate—he has maintained a question-and-answer section in every volume of One Piece for over 25 years, so his humanity is very present. But additionally, he’s quite possibly one of the hardest-working people alive, and the world he’s built in One Piece is … staggering. Suffice it to say, most fans have a very deep respect for Oda. His word carries a lot of weight.

Recommended Videos

So this letter, in particular, was fascinating. “Even though [Tomorrow Studios and Netflix] understand each of the characters,” Oda wrote, “we obviously come from very different cultures, so when it comes to entertainment, we have very different codes, skill sets, and aims … There was even a time when I thought, ‘Is a foreign production even possible?’ “

This statement alone was jaw-dropping. This kind of transparency and honesty about a Hollywood adaptation is, to my understanding, largely unprecedented. Oda is essentially saying the quiet part out loud. It’s rare to hear anyone in showbiz acknowledge the gap in aesthetic sensibility, which (in my estimation) plays a huge role in why most of Hollywood’s live-action anime adaptations fall on their face.

But Oda goes on. “Now, each and every entity is working in sync … I believe this is the last chance to bring One Piece to the entire world. If we’re going to do it, I want to be able to supervise things while I’m still active.” Then, an even more important sentence: “[Netflix has] promised that we won’t launch until I’m satisfied.” (Full translation here.)

This statement says that Oda has the power to stop the entire launch of the series! Throughout the production period of Netflix’s One Piece, this refrain has kept coming up: “Oda was deeply involved in casting, Oda’s a producer, Oda’s heavily involved.” Most of us—quite wisely, given the history of these kinds of adaptations—took the word “heavily” with a grain of salt. But in the case of the live-action One Piece, it’s really true. It’s rare to see a creator get so much power over a series these days, but the Netflix One Piece truly revolves around Oda’s approval.

Related: The 10 Best One Piece Characters on Attack of the Fanboy

The cast and crew back it up

I got the chance to chat about Eiichiro Oda’s involvement in the series with Netflix’s Director of Original Series (Spectacle), Ted Biaselli. And the way Biaselli described Oda was essentially reverent. It was immediately obvious to me that Biaselli holds Oda and his opinions in the highest esteem. It’s easy to imagine a producer getting annoyed with a nitpicky or overly-opinionated creator—you hear these kinds of things happen all the time. There was no hint of that vibe speaking with Biaselli.

Biaselli told me that Oda would regularly give notes for the series and that these notes typically came in the shape of storyboards. He told me that deviations from the original were specifically brought to Oda’s attention during the scripting phase. If Oda replied with “Try it out, let’s see,” he would subsequently receive consolatory screenings.

Actually, it seems like Oda was getting screenings to okay everything. Emily Rudd, who plays Nami, also talked to me about Oda and also mentioned these screenings. Both Biaselli and Rudd told me that Oda got “misty” (Biaselli’s word) during at least one end-of-season screening.

There were also hints of confirmation that Oda was, indeed, involved in the casting. Rudd mentioned her shock and flattery when she met Oda and he said he loved her work. Biaselli mentioned offhand that Oda “hung out” with Iñaki Godoy, who plays Luffy.

As a fan parading as press, talking to people who had met Oda, I couldn’t resist asking a slightly less journalistic question: what is Oda like?

Biaselli said, “I don’t throw the word ‘brilliant’ around very often, but he is brilliant. He is a master of the pop culture zeitgeist.” (Given the wealth of clever references in One Piece, that’s probably not surprising.) “He’s well-versed and articulate about music history … He has a playlist in his mind every time he writes.” One Piece Film: Red and its killer soundtrack somehow now hit harder.

Rudd added, “He’s so chill. He’s the chillest dude you could ever imagine. Oh my god, he’s so cool and relaxed.”

For a lot of reasons, it seems like Netflix’s One Piece adaptation could very well be an exception to Hollywood’s poor anime adaptation trend. Knowing that the creator not only held veto power but that his thoughts and opinions were actively sought out during the entire process, could prove to be the definitive difference.

(featured image: Netflix)

The Mary Sue is supported by our audience. When you purchase through links on our site, we may earn a small affiliate commission. Learn more about our Affiliate Policy
Image of Kirsten Carey
Kirsten Carey
Kirsten (she/her) is a contributing writer at the Mary Sue specializing in anime and gaming. In the last decade, she's also written for Channel Frederator (and its offshoots), Screen Rant, and more. In the other half of her professional life, she's also a musician, which includes leading a very weird rock band named Throwaway. When not talking about One Piece or The Legend of Zelda, she's talking about her cats, Momo and Jimbei.